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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

24 October 2002

Kemp Welcomes United Front on Plastic Bags

Today's working group on plastic bags achieved significant results in the national effort to protect the environment from the impact of plastic shopping bags, Federal Environment Minister, Dr David Kemp, said today.

Speaking after the first meeting of a national working group of government, industry and community leaders in Melbourne, Dr Kemp welcomed its agreement to work together for results, both in the short term and into the future.

The group was convened by the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) of Commonwealth, State and Territory ministers earlier this month specifically to advise governments on the issues surrounding plastic bag use in Australia.

"This constructive approach to an issue of such broad concern is an excellent example of what can be achieved through partnerships between government, industry and the community," Dr Kemp said.

"I look forward to reviewing the options put forward to the next meeting of the Ministerial Council in December."

The Commonwealth, State Environment Protection Agencies and local government are involved as are the Australian Retailers Association, Coles Myer, Woolworths, the Plastic and Chemicals Industry Association, the Packaging Council of Australia together with Clean Up Australia, Planet Ark and the Council for the Encouragement of Philanthropy.

Today's meeting agreed to form three subgroups, one to investigate voluntary and legislative options, including levies, one to develop and implement a national code of practice for retailers to reduce, reuse and recycle shopping bags, and the third to investigate the impacts of plastic bags and their alternatives, including biodegradability, litter and reuse issues.

Australians use more than 6 billion plastic bags every year, with about one-third of these finding their way into the litter stream, either on city streets and parks or in waterways, where they are causing significant harm to marine life.

Less than one per cent of plastic bags are re-used, with only 10 per cent of Australian households taking their bags to a collection point, other than a dump, for recycling.

At the EPHC meeting in Sydney earlier this month, Commonwealth, State and Territory Environment Ministers also agreed to host a public summit on plastic bag waste.

Outcomes from the working group will be used to assist the National Packaging Covenant Council in its recommendations for a national plan of action to encourage more people to reduce, re-use and recycle.

Media contact:
Catherine Job Dr Kemp's office (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia